I was going to make some clever marijuana pun to begin – what’s an AMG review without band name-related humor? – but thought that would be too easy a swipe at such low-lying fruit. Can we all just take a moment to reflect on the ridiculousness of the name Weedeater? Done? Okay, let’s move on.
Fresh off the back of a surge of popularity after re-releasing their back catalog courtesy of new label Season of Mist, Weedeater have returned with their fifth full-length in Goliathan. It doesn’t stray far from their established formula, and the almost-imperceptibly subtle title indicates the slow and thick music on offer. Nonetheless, it’s an intoxicating examination of Southern culture and arguably the most tongue-in-cheek approximation of their sludgy, stoner sound thus far delivered.
Diabolus in Muzaka correctly argued that there is a strong Southern blues influence on Sixteen Tons, but I would posit that Goliathan actually bears a stronger country flavour. As one would predict on a stoner metal release, the riffs are slow and overpoweringly fuzzy, but there are plenty of occasions where they are also curiously jaunty. “Cain Enabler” has a very upbeat melody despite the fat tone of its delivery, almost as if country is being played but on heavily-distorted guitars. This characteristic permeates Goliathan and ensures it’s a very fun listen. Weedeater judiciously draws on its Southern influences: the whiskey-soaked country ‘ballad’ of “Battered & Fried” is an enjoyable mid-album diversion. They even amusingly comment on the Biblical roots of the American South, opening with a Church organ piece in “Processional” and with other songs such as “Bow Down” and “Joseph (All Talk).”
The structure advances this atmosphere of fun. Only “Claw of the Sloth” exceeds five minutes, with the entire album closing out in thirty-four minutes. Things feel zippy largely due to the simple but satisfyingly groovy drumming which moves things along at a brisk pace despite the slower riffs. New drummer Travis Owen does a great job of filling the shoes of founding-member Keith Kirkum.
Nonetheless, although each song changes before lethargy can set in, the distinct problem that has afflicted Weedeater throughout their discography sets in again: tracks bleed together towards the back end on account of temporal and tonal regularity. It’s easy to take each song on its own merits but taken as a whole, it’s difficult to commit your attention for the entire duration. If the stoner or sludge genres have never taken hold with you then Goliathan does nothing to change that, despite the tongue-in-cheek style achieved here.
It’s also worth noting Goliathan‘s excellent production job. The promo copy I received (so what I assume is the commercial copy too) is ALAC, a high bit-rate, lossless format. The heavy riffs resonate with appropriate depth and the drums are warm and authentic. Though the fuzzy tone doesn’t demand great dynamic range, a slightly-above industry standard of 7 is used, scaling up to 13 for the anomalous introduction, conclusion and ballad, where cleaner tones or instruments which aren’t guitars are used. This effort makes me angry and bitter that almost every other band doesn’t bother, or isn’t able to produce, with such audio quality. If you’ve found nothing to enjoy in stoner metal before, this release probably won’t change that. But for those partial to grass, green, hash, pot, or any other euphemism for the titular drug, Goliathan is the sound of Weedeater hitting their humorous high. I don’t even smoke but here I am advocating weed culture… Mum, look at me go!